The Puerto Rican horchata is a very traditional and classical drink from this Caribbean island. It is a must-learn for milk and healthy drink enjoyers. Also, it is very simple to prepare and provides many nutrients for everyone!
What is the Puerto Rican Horchata?
Also known as Sesame Seed Milk, the Puerto Rican Horchata is a plant milk drink that is included in many Caribbean recipes. Its nutty, creamy, refreshing, and simple way to prepare makes it a favorite of many Puerto Rican islanders.
Since milk is a pantry recipe, it is almost impossible not to have the ingredients to make it. Made from toasted and soaked sesame seeds, it’s an excellent way to cool down during the hot weather of Puerto Rican summer.
These raw and toasted seeds, along with some spices, need to be chosen and left soaked overnight to let them soften and release their flavor. Then, the seeds are pureed in water and sweetened with milk.
Differences with Other Horchata Drinks
Authentic horchata is made from soaked and ground tiger nuts, but this recipe has been evolving through the years into its versions of rice milk. Although, from its origins, the word horchata grouped many plant-based kinds of milk.
Another common name for this drink is Horchata de ajonjolí, which actually is one of the many beverages that fall into the horchata umbrella word. Oat milk (horchata de avena), barley milk (horchata de cebada), and almond milk (horchata de almendras) are other of the most renowned beverages.
Ingredients to Prepare Puerto Rican Horchata
In order to prepare sesame milk, raw and hulled sesame seeds will be needed. Sweetened condensed milk, whole cloves, a star anise pod, and cinnamon sticks are also part of the ingredients. People can also opt to add species, but it’s totally optional.
When it comes to the required tools, a spoon, a large pitcher, and a blender is only needed. A towel is recommended to strain the milk from the seeds.
Benefits of Sesame Milk
Along with helping to cool down or enjoying a tasty beverage, sesame milk is known for offering a good amount of health benefits. This protein-rich non-dairy drink has eight times the benefits of traditional almond milk.
It is also a great source of fiber, iron, potassium, Vitamin D, and calcium. This makes it a perfect drink since there are not many plant-based drinks that offer all of these benefits.
Everything You Need to Know About the Seeds
The sesame seeds come from the pod of perennial sesame plants. These seeds are one of the oiliest ones, which is one of the reasons why it is so tasty. It has many other uses besides oil, such as butter, toppings, and beverages.
Differences Between Hulled and Unhulled Seeds
Hulled seeds are the ones that have their outer husks removed. Unhulled sesame seeds leave the husk intact and do not have many differences. It’s as similar as the differences between brown and white rice.
Unhulled seeds are good for preparing this recipe, but it gives Puerto Rican Horchata a bitter undertone. Its darker color also makes it more difficult to toast the seeds, because it’s less noticeable to difference the seeds.
Toasted sesame seeds from the store are also good to prepare the beverage, although homemade ones give a fresher flavor. When released from heat, soaking them immediately gives Horchata a more pronounced flavor and tone. The recommended time to do so is about 5 and 10 minutes.
Toasting Sesame Seeds
Start roasting the raw sesame seeds until they have a brown color and smell fragrant. Pour the seeds into a wide, 10-12 inches shallow skillet. In addition, heat the pan with low or medium heat using a flat wooden spoon. This will shift the seeds around in the pan.
This last step is very important because seeds need to be shifted quickly to ensure they’re toasted evenly. Avoid using metal spoons because it can increase the chances of burning the fingers or hand. The longer it stirs, the hotter it becomes, that’s why wooden spoons are better.
Also, flat spoons allow getting every seed, even those on the corners of the pan. Keep shifting until they turn dark. The darker it gets, the nuttier the Horchata will get, so it is a matter of preference.
Soaking or Storing Seeds
Once the seeds are fully toasted, they can be stored or soaked right away. In order to store them for later, seeds should be completely cooled off first. Then, transfer them to an air-tight container and save them in a dark and cool spot, for up to six months.
If seeds are stored while they’re still warm, it will make steam develop inside, causing mold or giving a rancid look. When taking them out for use, remember to warm them up a little in the oven for around 5 minutes.
Flavoring Seeds Properly
There are many spices to flavor the Puerto Rican Horchata. Some of the most used ones are cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. It is not very recommended to use strong flavors, since most of them should be a complement to give a warm undertone.
Add them to the pan around 3 minutes before the seeds are toasted to release the flavor. Then cover it, allowing the residual heat from seeds to warm everything up.
Pureeing the Seeds
In order to puree the seeds and spices into very small pieces after they have soaked, it’s important to use an immersion blender. Transferring everything from a covered pitcher to a mixing bowl will hugely ease the process. In the case of having a plastic bowl, it’s possible to do it there
For those who have soaked seeds with the minimum required time, it’s probable that they will not break easily. Puree for 2-3 minutes more until they break down.
Immersion blenders are very recommended for this task over traditional methods because it needs to use fewer dishes and requires less work. Pour everything inside a bowl or standard blender in case you don’t have one.
After pouring into a fine-mesh sieve with a tea towel or into a nut bag, strain the milk away. Use a spatula to press the remaining milk out of the seeds. Extract the horchata by gathering the corners of the towel and squeezing it as much as possible. Discard the remaining or throw it into compost.
Freezing the Horchata
It’s not an obligation to consume it at the exact moment it is prepared. Some people prefer to freeze it for another time and use it along with an iced tea another day. Pour it into ice cube trays or a freezer bag with tight sealing. This will help to make it occupy less space inside the fridge, and lasts up to 6 months there.
Serving the Beverage
Puerto Rican Horchata is served as any other regular beverage or milk. In case you like it cold or a bit chilly, it’s possible to add some ice to it.
Horchata de ajonjolí is the perfect drink for mornings, tea time, or along with some smoothies. Adding chocolate syrup is also very recommended, especially for kids.
Other Recommended Sesame Drinks
These are some of the other best drinks that include sesame. They’re also very simple to prepare and rich in nutrients:
Hot Black Sesame Drink
Known as a great alternative to tea, coffee, or chocolate, black sesame is very warm and comforting. Many people consume it because doesn’t provide enough caffeine, but it’s vegan and gluten-free.
Get the seeds to crush them or buy them already smashed in order to prepare the beverage. Generally, this kind of seeds is always available in Asian supermarkets, since they use them a lot in many dishes. Cornflour is another key ingredient as it thickens the drink.
Repeat the same steps as the Horchata in order to prepare the beverage, but with the switched and proper ingredients needs for it.
Cinnamon Sesame Milk
Cinnamon is a great mix of sesame milk. It acts as a light sweetener perfect to consume along a smoothie or coffee.
It’s not important what kind of sesame seeds are used, black or white. Although it’s very important that they’re plain and not toasted ones. Obtain Deglet Noor or Medjool dates too.
Soak the seeds, especially in the refrigerator, for at least 20 minutes. Then pour them into a mesh strainer and run water over them for no more than 10 seconds. Put everything inside a blender and add the remaining ingredients: pitted dates, cinnamon, filtered water, and maple syrup (optional).
After one minute of blending, pour all the ingredients into a nut bag and squeeze it. Using a mesh strainer can also be another good tool to do it. After that, it can be stored for 3 days or ready to consume immediately.
Puerto Rican Horchata or Horchata de ajonjolí is one of the most famous Caribbean beverages. Its creamy and refreshing type makes it perfect to cool down the hot days in Puerto Rico. Also, it’s very simple to prepare and ingredients are not hard to get.